Concern For QUAD: Satellite Pics Show China’s Second Overseas Naval Base Near Completion

By Ankit Kumar:

In a development that could raise concerns in the Indo-Pacific region, especially for QUAD members like India, China is nearing completion of its second naval station outside its territory, a base that has never been officially recognised as a Chinese military installation. The alleged base’s development in Cambodia has been under scrutiny for quite some time. However, recent satellite imagery provided to India Today by the US-based real-time geospatial intelligence firm, BlackSky, indicates that the base may soon be ready to host Chinese warships.

Both China and Cambodia have previously denied reports suggesting that this under-development port is intended exclusively for China’s use. It is noteworthy that China already operates a foreign naval base in Djibouti, Africa. Establishing a permanent presence of its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Cambodia would solidify China’s influence in the eastern region of the Indo-Pacific.

Satellite pictures of Ream Naval Base show rapid development Satellite pictures of Ream Naval Base show rapid development

The design of the piers at the Ream base in Cambodia bears an uncanny resemblance to its earlier support base in Djibouti, East Africa, and appears to be tailor-made for Chinese aircraft carriers. Notably, the large piers at both stations are approximately 363 meters long, providing ample support for any of China’s naval assets, including its Type 003 Fujian aircraft carrier.

Satellite pictures show similarity in pier design between China’s Djibouti and Cambodia naval stations

While China has acknowledged its support for the development project in Cambodia, it has consistently denied that the station will serve as an exclusive military asset for China. “China and Cambodia are comprehensive strategic partners, and their cooperation in all areas is open, transparent, and legitimate,” said Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, as quoted by Chinese media in June 2022.

Satellite pictures of Ream Naval Base show rapid development.

China and Cambodia held naval exercises for the first time in Cambodia in March, earlier this year. According to an official statement, three Chinese and Cambodian ships participated in the exercise to complete formation training and communication exercises.

Last year the Cambodian government disclosed plans to allocate 157 hectares for an “air defense command and general headquarters” and an additional 30 hectares for a “naval radar system” at the site. Despite the vastness of the Chinese naval fleet, China lacks a global footprint matching the United States with overseas bases all around the world. It achieved a significant milestone after its first such base became operational in Africa. With an operational station in the east, Chinese naval influence is expected to increase in the Indo-Pacific.

Earlier this year, New Delhi witnessed high profile visits from Cambodia including Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, who came to India for the first time. His visit was preceded by Lieutenant General Hun Manet, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and Commander of the Royal Cambodian Army.

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